On May 3, 2013 Uniqlo became the exclusive, multi-year sponsor of the New York Museum of Modern Art’s Friday night program, which offers free admission in the evenings. Almost a year later in March of 2014, Uniqlo launched SPRZ NY (Surprise New York) in partnership with MoMA.
Under SPRZ NY, Uniqlo puts artwork inspired by top contemporary artists such as Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Keith Haring on some 200 items that will sell from $6 to $50. Some of the artists, including Ryan McGinness, will personally design clothing items based on their works hanging in the museum. It’s “the place where art and clothing meet.” The sponsorship is designed to showcase the huge signature 5th Avenue Uniqlo store that is located around the corner from MoMA.
The store redesigned the second floor so it looks and feels like a museum, with framed pieces of art-stimulated clothing on the wall. A Starbucks was added that provided more destination appeal and energy. A one year anniversary of the launch saw a month of special events such as an Art of Discovery scavenger hunt in the museum, a design your own t-shirt program for kids, and a special New York art tour featuring secret locations.
The partnership works for four reasons:
It provides a brand image lift. The association and the programs provide a lift to the Uniqlo image of representing quality, innovation and contemporary fashion that works in everyday living. The art provides self-expressive benefits to some and a sense of being contemporary and fashionable without being trendy to others. It gives energy to the brand, the store and the store experience. Just think of having unique designs attached to interesting and visible artists. The MoMA connection is not possible to duplicate; it’s the ultimate characteristic of an exclusive sponsorship.
It energizes the flagship store. It provides a spotlight on the flagship store and by extension the Uniqlo effort in US major cities, which also offer many of the MoMA inspired clothing items. It gives the Uniqlo 5th Avenue store a burst of energy and differentiation. Both are highly sought after and hard to attain for retailers, especially prime competitors like Zara and H&M. The fact that the store is around the corner from the MoMA cements the relationship.
It’s dynamic. The sponsorship was not simply as association based on paying more money than others, but it was alive, active and anything but static. Each year, Uniqlo not only sticks with the sponsorship but leverages it in new and creative ways. And all along, Uniqlo stuck to the core features of the MoMA and the SPRZ concept of creating surprising experiences.
It links back tightly to the Uniqlo brand. Free Friday’s are labeled as Uniqlo Free Friday Nights. SPRZ NY clothing is featured in the Uniqlo 5th Avenue store and is available elsewhere. Except for the MoMA store, the only place that clothing appears is within Uniqlo. It fits Uniqlo, a brand with an emphasis on contemporary fashion for everyday living, on innovation and on having a distinctive in-store experience.
The Uniqlo/MoMa partnership works in so many dimensions. It adds value to the brand and its offering by creating energy and interest in Uniqlo clothing designs, a very basic brand value. It allows the flagship store to be more visible in its role in showcasing the brand. The store has become a destination attraction, the ultimate achievement for a retailer. It adds energy to the brand in multiple ways, from the experience in the 5th Avenue store, to designs that people talk about, to the involvement with the MoMA, and more. And it all ties tightly to the brand. It is a wonderful role model.